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Harris Poll: Two-Thirds of US Adults Favor Legalizing Marijuana

Marijuana Poll; Chicago, IL: Two-thirds of US adults favor a repeal of federal marijuana prohibition, according to nationwide polling data compiled by Harris Research.

Sixty-six percent of respondents in a nationally representative sample endorse legalizing cannabis for adults, with support being strongest among millennials (79 percent) and members of Generation X (76 percent). By contrast, just under 50 percent of Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) backed adult-use legalization.

The results are consistent with those of other recent national polls, including those by Gallup, Morning Consult, and Quinnipiac University, showing that a supermajority of Americans believe that marijuana ought to be legalized for adults.

When asked whether cannabis should be legal for medical purposes, 84 percent of respondents answered affirmatively – a percentage that is also consistent with prior polling.

Survey: Users of CBG-Dominant Cannabis Report Efficacy for Pain, Other Conditions

Pullman, WA: Those who consume cannabis and/or cannabis preparations high in the cannabinoid cannabigerol (CBG) say that they are effective therapeutics and that they possess few adverse side-effects, according to data published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

CBG acid is the parent compound precursor to the more popularized cannabinoids THC and CBD. It is typically only found in minute quantities in harvested cannabis plants. However, in recent years, specially cultivated varieties of the plant possessing higher concentrations of CBG have been reported, particularly in the pacific northwest region of the United States.

A team of researchers affiliated with Washington State University and the University of California at Los Angeles surveyed subjects who self-identified as consumers of CBG-dominant cannabis products.

A majority of survey participants said they used CBG-dominant preparations of cannabis exclusively for medical purposes. Respondents most frequently did so to mitigate symptoms of anxiety, chronic pain, depression, and insomnia.

Most respondents described their symptoms as either “much improved” or “very much improved” following their use of CBG-dominant cannabis, and three-quarters rated it as “superior” to their conventional medications.

Authors concluded: “This is the first patient survey of CBG use to document self-reported efficacy of CBG-predominant cannabis, particularly for anxiety, chronic pain, depression, and insomnia. Most respondents claimed greater efficacy of CBG over conventional pharmacotherapy … and reported a very benign adverse event profile and negligible withdrawal. … This study demonstrates that CBG-predominant cannabis and related products are available and being used by cannabis consumers and demonstrates the urgent need for randomized controlled trials of CBG-predominant cannabis-based medicines to be studied rigorously to assess safety and efficacy as a function of dose, mode of administration, and specific therapeutic indications.”

Full text of the study, “Survey of patients employing cannabigerol-predominant cannabis preparations: Perceived medical effects, adverse events, and withdrawal symptoms,” appears in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

Study: Legal Cannabis Markets Experienced Far Fewer Cases of Vaping Illness

New Haven, CT: States with legal adult-use cannabis markets were far less likely to experience incidences of the vaping-related lung illness EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury), which was responsible for several thousand hospitalizations in 2019. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eventually acknowledged that vitamin E acetate – a diluting agent sometimes present in counterfeit, unregulated vape pen products – was responsible for the outbreak.

New data published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence reported that cases of EVALI were more than 40 percent lower in legal cannabis states and that they were over 60 percent lower in jurisdictions that permitted home cultivation. Home grow laws were also associated with fewer incidences of consumers engaging in the use of marijuana vape pens.

Authors concluded: “Given that EVALI cases stemmed primarily from informally-sourced vaporizable marijuana concentrates, these results are consistent with crowd-out, whereby introduction of one market (legal marijuana) displaces utilization of another (informally-sourced marijuana products). Simply put, if the public can obtain products legally from reputable sources, there is less demand for illicit market products. Thus, RM [recreational marijuana] legalization could have dampened market penetration of tainted marijuana concentrates by reducing consumption of informally-sourced marijuana products more generally.”

The findings are consistent with those of several other studies also concluding that EVALI cases were largely concentrated in states where consumers did not have legal access to cannabis products.

Full text of the study, “State marijuana policies and vaping associated lung injuries in the US,” appears in Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

Analysis: THC Levels Not Indicative of Driving Impairment

New Haven, CT: The presence of THC concentrations in either blood or saliva is an unreliable predictor of impaired driving performance, according to a literature review published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.

Researchers affiliated with Yale University assessed multiple papers specific to the issue of marijuana and driving performance. Consistent with prior reviews, authors reported that the presence of THC in bodily fluids is not a consistent predictor of impairment and that state-imposed per se limits for THC are not evidence-based.

Authors reported, “While legislators may wish for data showing straightforward relationships between blood THC levels and driving impairment that parallel those of alcohol, the widely different pharmacokinetic properties of the two substances … make this goal unrealistic.”

They added: “[S]tudies suggest that efforts to establish per se limits for cannabis-impaired drivers based on blood THC values are still premature at this time. Considerably more evidence is needed before we can have an equivalent ‘BAC for THC.’ The particular pharmacokinetics of cannabis and its variable impairing effects on driving ability currently seem to argue that defining a standardized per se limit for THC will be a very difficult goal to achieve.”

Researchers concluded: “Until there is more evidence-based consensus of opinion on meaningful thresholds for per se laws, we would recommend against reliance on such legislation. This is particularly the case given the significant inconsistencies in threshold values currently determined by different states in the US, and the rather weak scientific basis for such decisions. Any such laws cannot claim to be strongly based on current scientific evidence, which suggest collectively that standard based on detectable blood THC levels are not useful.”

Their findings are consistent with those of numerous other studies and expert review panels concluding that the presence of THC is an unreliable indicator of either recent cannabis exposure or impairment of performance. A 2019 report issued by the Congressional Research Service similarly determined: “Research studies have been unable to consistently correlate levels of marijuana consumption, or THC in a person’s body, and levels of impairment. Thus, some researchers, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, have observed that using a measure of THC as evidence of a driver’s impairment is not supported by scientific evidence to date.”

NORML has long opposed the imposition of THC per se thresholds for cannabinoids in traffic safety legislation, opining: “The sole presence of THC and/or its metabolites in blood, particularly at low levels, is an inconsistent and largely inappropriate indicator of psychomotor impairment in cannabis consuming subjects. … Lawmakers would be advised to consider alternative legislative approaches to address concerns over DUI cannabis behavior that do not rely solely on the presence of THC or its metabolites in blood or urine as determinants of guilt in a court of law. Otherwise, the imposition of traffic safety laws may inadvertently become a criminal mechanism for law enforcement and prosecutors to punish those who have engaged in legally protected behavior and who have not posed any actionable traffic safety threat.”

In recent months, lawmakers in two states – Indiana and Nevada – have rolled back their THC per se laws.

The study’s authors acknowledged that acute cannabis-induced intoxication can influence driving behavior, but also recognized that “the relative risk of such impaired driving is significantly lower than other legislated drug use while driving, such as that resulting from alcohol.”

Full text of the study, “Cannabis and Driving,” appears in Frontiers in Psychiatry.

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FBI Report: Marijuana Arrests Plunge More Than 30 Percent in 2020

Washington, DC: The estimated number of persons arrested in the United States for violating marijuana laws declined precipitously in 2020, according to data released this week by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

According to the FBI…s Uniform Crime Report, police made an estimated 350,150 arrests for marijuana-related violations in 2020. This total is a 36 percent decrease from 2019, when police made an estimated 545,602 marijuana-related arrests. Not since the early 1990s has the FBI reported so few marijuana-related arrests in a single year.

US Marijuana Arrests
Marijuana arrests are down more than 50 percent from their peak in 2008, when police made over 800,000 marijuana-related arrests. Since 2012, 18 states and Washington, DC have enacted laws legalizing the possession of small amounts of cannabis by adults.

“As more states move toward the sensible policy of legalizing and regulating cannabis, we are seeing a decline in the arrest of non-violent marijuana consumers nationwide,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said.

He added: “The fight for legalization is a fight for justice. While these numbers represent a historic decline in arrests, even one person being put into handcuffs for the simple possession of marijuana is too many.”

Of those arrested for cannabis-related activities, some 91 percent (317,793) were arrested for marijuana possession offenses only. Marijuana-related arrests represented 30.3 percent of all drug-related arrests in the United States in 2020.

Marijuana-related arrests were least likely to occur in western states — most of which have legalized the possession of the substance — and were most prevalent in the northeast, where they constituted an estimated 50 percent of all drug arrests. This will likely change going forward, as several northeastern states, including Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York have all legalized their marijuana markets in recent months.

Twin Study: Adolescent Cannabis Exposure Not an Independent Cause of Psychosis in Adulthood

Minneapolis, MN: Cannabis exposure during adolescence is not independently associated with either adult-onset psychosis or signs of schizophrenia, according to longitudinal data published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

Researchers affiliated with the University of Minnesota Institute of Child Development assessed the relationship between adolescent cannabis use and adult-onset psychosis in a longitudinal co-twin control analysis. Scientists identified no dose-response relationship in models that compared the greater cannabis using twin to the lesser using co-twin with respect to psychosis-proneness in adulthood. They also reported no differing effects on subjects… levels of cannabis exposure and their later risk of schizophrenia.

Researchers reported: “Epidemiological studies have repeatedly shown that individuals who use cannabis are more likely to develop psychotic disorders than individuals who do not. It has been suggested that these associations represent a causal effect of cannabis use on psychosis, and that psychosis risk may be particularly elevated when use occurs in adolescence. … This study, however, does not support these hypotheses, suggesting instead that observed associations are more likely due to confounding by common vulnerability factors.”

They concluded, “[T]he results suggest this association is likely attributable to familial confounds rather than a causal effect of cannabis exposure. … Our results suggest that the threat of potential harm to adolescents via meaningful increases in risk of long-term psychotic illness may be overstated. … Thus, clinical and public health interventions aimed at decreasing the prevalence and burden of psychotic illnesses may benefit from focusing their attention elsewhere.”

Full text of the study, “Adolescent cannabis use and adult psychoticism: A longitudinal co-twin control analysis using data from two cohorts,” appears in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

Study: Enactment of Adult-Use Marijuana Laws Is Not Associated with Increased Odds of Youth Use

New York, NY: The enactment of statewide marijuana legalization policies is not associated with increases in the use of cannabis by those ages 12 to 20 years of age, according to data published in the journal JAMA Open Network.

A team of researchers affiliated with Columbia University…s Department of Epidemiology assessed trends in self-reported past-year and past-month marijuana use in a cohort of over 838,000 people residing in states with adult-use cannabis legalization laws.

Consistent with other studies, authors reported “no increases … in the odds of past-year or past-month cannabis use post-RCL [recreational cannabis laws] enactment among … individuals aged 12 to 20 years for all races and ethnicities.”

Authors did identify an uptick in self-reported use among White adults and Hispanic adults (ages 21 or older), but not among Black adults, following legalization. However, they reported that legalization was “not associated with frequent use or use disorder among cannabis users, including among members of demographic subgroups most affected by criminalization.”

Full text of the study, “Racial and ethnic differences in cannabis use following legalization in US states with medical cannabis laws,” appears in JAMA Open Network.

Use of CBD-Dominant Cannabis Products Is Associated with Decreases in Anxiety and Depressive Symptoms

Baltimore, MD: Patients who consume CBD-dominant varieties of cannabis or cannabis products experience decreased levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms than do similarly matched controls, according to data published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.

Investigators affiliated with John Hopkins University in Baltimore and the University of South Carolina in Charleston assessed longitudinal trends in self-reported anxiety and depressive symptoms in a cohort of cannabis consumers and non-consumers. The majority of subjects in the study who were aware of the cannabinoid composition of their products said that they primarily consumed CBD-dominant cannabis.

Researchers reported: “Initiation of medicinal cannabis during the follow-up period [of the study] was associated with significantly decreased anxiety and depressive symptoms, an effect that was not observed in controls that never initiated cannabis use. … Adverse effects attributed by participants to cannabis product use were infrequent, were more associated with THC-dominant product use. … It is recommended that this antidepressant effect of CBD be evaluated further in placebo-controlled clinical trials.”

Full text of the study, “Antidepressant and anxiolytic effects of medicinal cannabis use in an observational trial,” appears in Frontiers in Psychiatry.

Survey: Women Increasingly Turning to Cannabis to Mitigate Symptoms of Menopause

Edmonton, Canada: Middle-aged women are frequently acknowledging using cannabis to treat symptoms associated with menopause, according to survey data presented at the annual meeting of The North American Menopause Society.

Investigators with the University of Alberta surveyed nearly 1,500 middle-aged Canadian women about their use of cannabis. Marijuana is legal for both medical and recreational purposes in Canada.

One-third of those surveyed acknowledged having used cannabis products within the past month. Among current users, 75 percent defined their use as medicinal and most said that cannabis successfully mitigated their menopause-related issues, including irritability, muscle and joint aches, and sleep disturbances.

“Our study confirmed that a large percentage of midlife women are using cannabis for symptoms that overlap with menopause, especially those women who reported more symptoms,” the study…s lead author said in a statement. “In addition, many of these women are claiming to get relief for their symptoms through the use of cannabis.”

Data from the United States, presented at last year…s conference, reported similar results. That study reported that some 27 percent of women living in California had experience using cannabis for menopause symptom management.

A press release summarizing the 2021 survey results is available online.

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